Spoonflower remains focused on creativity and community

In a state where the economy was once dominated by textiles this Durham company found a new and creative way to incorporate that heritage with digital printing technology, a lot of moxie, and a serious dose of customer focus.

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Rolls of fabric sit in Spoonflower's printing facility in Durham wait for their turn on the state-of-the-art digital textile printer.

Spoonflower was the first web-based custom fabric design service in the world when it was founded in 2008. The birth of the company came when Stephen Fraser’s creative wife was looking for a specific fabric for a home decorating project. After the search turned up nothing online Fraser reached out to his friend Gart Davis, a known internet entrepreneurial expert, explaining he believed he had found a unique void in the marketplace. Spoonflower was born. The early days were spent in trial and error – at one point they were working out of an old sock manufacturing plant in Mebane with no air conditioning, which come to find out caused the colors on their carefully printed fabrics to run.They learned as they grew and today their headquarters are located in Durham. Creativity and design meet in this space with their digital printing process, which is designed around the customer, leading the way. “These printers can show greater design detail and that allows our DIY designers to use as many colors in their designs as they can imagine.” explained Meredith Feingold, Community Outreach Coordinator and Customer Service Advocate as she gave the tour of the facility.The layout of the fabric printing and packaging side is clearly planned to run with efficiency as they are deadline based and order focused—but make no mistake, there is fun at every turn. One wall features an original sketch of books reminding employees about an intra-office contest and another houses the stacks of fabric swatches awaiting shipment—orderly and planned by their engineering department, yet still artistic in their housing.The current and forward focus is on their labs — a term they use for the testing grounds for their concepts that take textiles into downstream markets such as fashion and home décor, as well as their move into the international marketplace with the addition of the manufacturing facility in Berlin.”Really this has been on the road map for many years and it’s great that we’ve arrived at this point in our growth and our trajectory so that we are able to give birth to these new brands. This is taking customization to a whole new level.” said President, Allison Polish on what the addition of Roostery means to Spoonflower.In 2016 the company received a shot in the arm with a $25 million investment led by North Bridge Equity Group, and along for the ride were Durham’s Bull City Venture Partners. The funding allowed Spoonflower to step up the pace of design and development and gave them the freedom to introduce Sprout Patterns and Roostery. Spoonflower partnered with Sprout Patterns to make their clients’ fashion dreams come true—the service allows you to choose and customize your design, the pattern is then printed and shipped to you, and you sew it at home. Roostery is their new home décor line.The home décor line includes placemats, napkins, tea towels, and as of last week—chairs.”It’s so much fun to see the products in real life, actually living and being able to touch them. Being part of a supply chain and selling material is great, but you don’t often get to see what happens with the material after it goes out the door unless people are willing to share it socially. So it’s really amazing to see what has inspired people and apply it to real products. It’s been a lot of fun to see,” shared Sarah Ward, VP of Marketing.Spoonflower is now the space where the largest online group of independent fabric designers meet to create, print, and sell their creations and with their most recent forays into other vertical lines of textiles they are poised for even greater growth. It is evident that even as they expand they will continue to keep their focus on their original vision of creativity and community.